For an automaker to embark on a new car or other project isn't a simple task. Foremost, it costs money, and developing a car isn't exactly inexpensive. So, BMW has a new way of doing things: it builds "pretertypes" before a prototype. 

Rainer Daude, head of BMW's forward-looking technology office, coined the term and told Automotive News (subscription required) at the 2017 Los Angeles auto show that it helps gauge interest before a program is in too deep. He also gave an example of a pretertype: a battery trailer to extend the ranges of its electric cars. 

The company will sometimes build the pretertype out of paper or simply sketch it and show it to the public in a quiet setting to see if an idea is just right or way off. Designers sketched out the battery trailer, even including an option for a sleeping area, and showed visitors at the exhibition center in its Munich, Germany, headquarters.

In this case, it was a hard no, Daude said. "Asians were polite, Europeans were more direct, but the response was the same: No one liked it," he said.

BMW wants to use the pretertype stage to help it innovate quickly, and fail even quicker as industry competition heats up with electric cars and range-extending technology. Failure isn't always bad, and the pre-prototype of sorts saved the company time, money, and effort in the long run.

Come to think of it, we're curious to see what a BMW trailer with a sleeping quarters actually looked like.